In view of the recent happenings in the Sierra, I find it necessary to offer some sort of report, mainly to quash all sorts of dire rumours circulating due to sensational press, in turn originating umpteen misunderstandings, so here goes.
Yes, we have had some impressive forest fires, more than ever known in this region, and which, thank goodness, are now under control, thanks to the tremendous efforts of all concerned – firemen, water planes and helicopters from all over Spain, with additional help from the military, and with a very special mention to the impressive quality of help from our Portuguese colleagues. Although the whole region is striped with firebreaks and dotted with lookout points, this apparently intentional fire which started simultaneously at five points and which was initially relatively easy to control, got out of hand due to the very high winds which started overnight, precisely when the planes and ‘copters finished for the day.
Summer fires are quite usual in Spain and indeed all Mediterranean areas where the resinous pine is proliferous, but our region in particular has suffered an unusually dry period which didn’t help, so unfortunately these fires quickly got out of hand.
However, I must stress that at no moment was anyone in danger and, indeed, no-one suffered any injury at all. What is even more important to understand is that at no time was there danger to any of the towns and villages – people were evacuated solely because of breathing difficulties caused by the all-enveloping thick smoke. As soon as the fire passed or was extinguished, these people were allowed to return to their homes. This is an incredibly beautiful area, and is also agricultural, and the main damage was to crops and livestock, but very few actual houses suffered any major damage, and the buildings which did unfortunately catch fire were one or two right out in the forest which were impossible to reach in time by the firefighters.
Naturally the extensive damage to the countryside can clearly be seen, but nature will see to it that, as soon as it rains again, it will slowly suffer a metamorphosis and regain its emerald green colour, even though naturally this will take time. However, our recently formed Association “Somos Sierra de Gata” (www.somos-sierradegata.org) is even now studying ways of recuperation, carefully planned re-forestation, etc., with the full help of the local and central Governments. What we would like to stress is that, although these fires have caused a huge amount of stress to all concerned, they have been limited to a mere 5% of the total extension of the region. There still remains a vast amount of Sierra de Gata to be enjoyed with its incomparable scenery, abundant natural pools and plenty of outdoor activities available even to the most discerning.
I do hope this will help clear up any doubts you may have about visiting this incredibly beautiful area, the main sufferers being the actual inhabitants who are emotionally bound to this amazingly fertile land and whose livelihood is mainly linked to agriculture. We hope to be able to give them the support they need to be able to get back on their feet again as soon as possible.